Oct 2017 trip report

Doug writes:

There were 4 of us (2 older couples) spending three days in Suriname in Oct 2017 and we found your guidebook very helpful.

I reserved our rooms in Paramaribo’s Royal Torarica Hotel online and that was very nice.

I made our other sighsteeing plans through METS Travel and Tours and found them helpful and professional.

Through them, we had the services of Desmond Budhan, who also freelances as Desmond Day Trips (mdesmondb@hotmail.com) and were very happy with his services. We did a morning visit to Peperpot Nature Park (that was easy to walk, fruitful in the number of birds, monkeys and wildlife that we saw in such a short time).

He took us to an Indonesian restaurant in Blauwgrond for lunch and it was delicious and cheap and tasted as good as the ones that we remember from being in Sumatra many years ago.

We then had a full day trip with Desmond to Jodensavanne (which we found very meaningful and historical) and added onto that a trip to Afobaka Dam and the Brokopondo Lake that gave us a better sense of the size of Suriname and of the countryside.

We also went to Friday night services at Neveh Shalom Synagogue in Paramaribo and really enjoyed how different the religious services were from what we are used to in New York. It was Sukkot and we were welcomed by the congregation to join in the festive meal afterwards – very sweet. (It IS hard to find the entrance to the synagogue but the instructions in your book to approach on the street behind the synagogue where you must be let through a locked gate by a guard is correct.)

Also, before we left NY, we had tried to get in touch with Marina Da Costa for the Jodensanne Tour but, when we met her at Neveh Shalom Synagogue (by chance!), she explained that her email has changed, so she never got my emails. Her new email is info@da-costa-art.com.

2018 trip report

Wanda Davies writes:

We just returned from 2 weeks in Suriname and this guide was invaluable.

I’ll offer general info, then specifics on our trip.

Prices have risen about 20% since the guide was written. And almost no one takes credit cards, even hotels and tour operators so this requires lots of cash. Most do take dollars and Euros. In fact lots of prices of tourist stuff is given in Euros. Few ATM’s will work with Visa debit cards. The only ATM that takes Visa cards is the Republic Bank on Heeren Straat near the Dutch Reform Church. The maximum to withdraw is SRD 1000 (about $150) so it’s easy to rack pretty hefty ATM fees if you don’t have a card with low fees. The alternative is to bring lots of cash (Euros or dollars). Even hotels that supposedly take credit cards often find the card machine doesn’t work.

During our trip it rained several times every day so be sure you have good raingear. I brought leather sandals that were useless as I didn’t want them to get wet. Each rain only lasts 20-30 minutes.

If you use Whatsapp to make calls when you have WiFi you enter + then 597 then the phone number. Obviously this only works with mobile numbers which start with the number 8.

When in Paramaribo we stayed at Un Pied un Terre and Twenty-Four. Un Pied un Terre scores on the charm factor. Though only 1 room (sleeping 5 people) has a private bath. All others are shared. Twenty-four has both. If you stay there the rooms with AC, private bath, and a balcony overlooking the nearby stream are only a few Euros more and are very nice.

We did not do any tours, but contacted resort/hotel operators for travel arrangements. This saved quite a bit. We went for 2 nights to Stephanie’s Lodge at Bigi Pan. You can find her on Trip Advisor. We called her (she speaks English and Dutch) and she arranged a minibus that picked us up at our hotel. It takes 4.5 hours on the road so I highly recommend staying for 2 nights. The family that runs it is charming and plans nice outings. The food is excellent. Though it is rustic with salt water showers. I wish we would have requested to be dropped off in Groenigen on the way back to Parimaribo to stay a night.

We also did a trip to Jaw Jaw in the upper Suriname at the Guesthouse Jaw Jaw a Tela. Find it on Facebook. This was the highlight of our trip. Bele is the host, he speaks excellent English and Dutch and his place really involves you in village life. He arranged the bus transport to Atjoni and the boat to Jaw Jaw. It is a cultural experience. The other resorts on the river are all set away from villages. While they may offer a trip to a village, it’s not the same as staying right in the village. Though those spots may be more scenic since they’re located right on the river. If that’s what you’re looking for I thought Menimi was the nicest.

We had thought to do a trip to Matapica to see turtles and would have done a tour as it seemed impossible to do any other way. However the turtles apparently hadn’t read the book that said they should be there in February. So with no turtles we did not go.

We did rent bikes one day from Fiertsen and took the boat to Commewinje to see Pepper Pot. It was a fine day.

Another day we took a boat from the Leonsberg jetty to Nieuw Amsterdam. Make use of the phone numbers in the book for boat men at Leonsberg so you know you’ll have a boat. If you take a taxi to Leonsberg arrange for a pick up at the end of the day as it’s very difficult to get a taxi to return to town. Niew Amsterdam is well worthwhile and has placards in English. That same day we arranged with Iwan to take us out to see the dolphins. This was much nicer than the tour. He charged SRD 300 and with 4 of us was much cheaper than the tour.

Another day we had Iwan take us to Fredericksdorp. We had lunch and hiked around. It was a lovely day.

We did visit New Zeelandia. If you don’t speak Dutch don’t bother. The tour is in Dutch and all placards are in Dutch.

We also went to the Butterfly Garden in Lelydorp and really enjoyed it. The tour guide did speak English. And the 1.5 KM walking tour in the book is a nice way to spend an hour.

Sep/Oct 2016 trip report

Ananke writes:

Suriname in 3 weeks

We went to Suriname (a young couple) end of September-mid October and used Bradt guide as main source of wisdom. The book covers the country quite well and helped us a lot with accommodation and other practicalities however the prices changed a lot and some opening times too. Here is what we have done in Suriname:

We arrived from Amsterdam and as it was late evening we took a taxi from the international airport to our accommodation at Un-Pied-a-Terre. There are taxi drivers waiting at the airport shouting at you „taxi, taxi“ so we grabbed one of those. The original price was 25 EUR but we asked if 20 is OK and the woman said yes. Then later she probably regretted her choice and wanted the 25. I don’t know if there is much cheaper option by taxi. Maybe if you arrange a taxi in advance you can save some money.

We stayed in Paramaribo in total four times, always in between trips to somewhere else and always stayed at guesthouse Un-Pied-a-Terre. The prices are fair and accommodation simple. The location is good, you can be on the sort of main street of the city (Henk Arron straat) in about 5 minutes’ walk. A big benefit is also the staff, whenever we came back it was like meeting friends again.

Be aware that it is not easy to find any sort of a cafe or breakfast place in Parbo before 9-10 am so if you wake up early you either have to have some provisions or have to accept being hungry for some time. Otherwise we had very good experience with Souposo on Costerstraat (the same street as Un-Pied-a-Terre) and with warung Latoya in Blauwgrond. Joosjes roti and Cafe ‘t Vat is also having good food. Don’t expect to buy much stuff except for snacks or real basics like milk and flour in the Chinese supermarkets. Especially the small ones have a really limited offer and for the bigger ones you need to get outside of the city centre. We came across one western-style supermarket and that was Choi’s. They had a lot of Dutch and American products. Also be prepared that the coffee in most places is either disgusting or (outside of the city) instant.

After Parbo we went to Galibi and arranged it through George who is mentioned in the book. He is a very peculiar person and he might not suit everyone. He is a businessman who is offering tours to Brownsberg and practically anywhere else (if it is not the jungle) and right our first evening he was making us a bit uncomfortable by offering his services (though he wasn’t too pushy and once he understood we don’t have much interest he didn’t bring it up again). The trip to Galibi with George was super cheap. I think we paid ca. 25 EUR pp per day including accommodation, breakfast and dinner (there is no other choice anyway) and transport to and from Galibi from Paramaribo. On the other hand we had to wait ca. 2-3 hours in Albina for some other group which was bound to Galibi. The accommodation at George’s is very basic and I suppose that because we came off the main turtle season it was not very clean (especially the sanitary block). Once you learn to know George a bit you might feel a little less intimidated by his proving look and actually we had a lot of fun on a tour of Galibi on his 4 wheel motorbike for 20 SRD. Otherwise if you don’t come for the turtles Galibi is a very peaceful village and is worth the visit if you are interested to see how people live in such a remote place. The beach is beautiful except that there is a lot of garbage lying around (plastic, old fridges, damaged flip-flops etc).

After Galibi we went to Brownsberg (via Parbo of course). We decided to try out local public transport and wanted to take the bus to Brownsweg at 06:00. The stop is somewhere on the Saramacca Straat. According to the book it is opposite of Jerusalem Bazaar however locals (who as we found out during our holiday are not so good with explaining directions) were sending us further. In the end we ended up somewhere further down the street and didn’t take the bus to Brownsweg but to Atjoni (Brownsweg was on the way). The stop was at Saramacca Straat 75 next to a shop called „Danny store“. The bus arrived at 06:15 but as we found out it was only leaving at 08:30. However if you want a seat you better get there at 06:00 as the seats were sold-out quickly. Be aware that there is no toilet anywhere in the direct vicinity. The trip was quite an experience and you have to be very, very patient (as with many things in Suriname). Eventually we got to Brownsweg where it took some time to find out which direction to go to Brownsberg. The bus left us next to a supermarket so we had to turn left and continue along the main street until we came to a board pointing the direction to Brownsberg. If you follow the main street you get to a complex of two-three supermarkets, quite a clean toilet (not the one next to the Chinese restaurant) and a Chinese restaurant. We had fries in the restaurant and they were the worst we ever had so not much to recommend. The way to Brownsberg is a nice hike, sometimes a bit steep. It is actually 11km not 13 as mentioned on the official board. At a certain point there was a crossroads where you have to turn left and then just follow always straight and you get out at Brownsberg camp.
The camp is having it’s charm but it is very rustic. We had a lot of frogs, lizards and grasshoppers in our room and in the shower and toilet. Also despite the locals telling you there are no mosquitos there are some especially at dusk but not many. To arrange the camp we called Stinasu and got a reservation. It is a bit overpriced, the same as the food in the only restaurant but it was a wonderful experience as the location is really unique.
Through a local guy we got a taxi arranged to Atjoni from Brownsweg (phone 07400002, Roy) for 40 SRD pp. Otherwise at that cluster of shops at Brownsweg there are a lot of taxi’s stopping so maybe you can get there one as well.

We have arranged to stay in hotel Botopassi and had a boat taxi from Atjoni to Botopassi organised by the owner of the hotel. The hotel itself is very nice, located on the other side of the river as the village. A useful guide to the Saramacca rivier hotels was laying at Un-Pied-a-Terre. We paid 40 EUR pp per night including three meals a day. The food was very good, the huts neat enough and the company amiable. The location is a very big plus as the riverbank there is particulary beautiful. Next we stayed at Gunzi which is a traditional village (=not Christian) of around 80 inhabitants. The local eco camp Tei Wei is run by two very friendly brothers. There is not much to do in the village but it was a unique experience. Walking around you can see the shrines for offerings to ghosts. Also the huts of the camp are on a nice location next to the river. The food was prepared by one of the owners and was unique as well as it was all local – cassava soup, cooked papaya, local fresh baked buns. We also arranged a alligator spotting trip through the owners. It was a magical experience, being on the river at night and we were lucky and saw loads of baby alligators.

After a brief stay in Parbo in our last week we had a 5 day trip to Kasikasima organised by Mets. We booked it through Jenny tours as it was cheaper. You can immediatelly feel that the tour is organised by professionals. You are never bored. You are never hungry. All is arranged. It is expensive – we paid 770 EUR pp. – but it was worth every cent. Our guides to Kasikasima were local Amerindians and were perfect for this sort of a trip. They knew everything about the jungle, the animals and the plants. The boat trip to the base camp was quite rough, especially because it was end of the dry season, so I would recommend to take a special waterproof bag since the garbage bags provided by the guides are not enough to protect the belongings. Also at one spot you need to change boats and the second boat was having a leak so we had to spend the last part of our journey pouring the water out of the boat.
The hike to Kasikasima is not very hard but the heat and lack of water makes it much tougher.

Transport in Suriname was very easy to arrange it (especially because we speak Dutch). Usually we asked someone local and they either knew someone or could give us a phone number.
Including the costs of the trip to Kasikasima we spent aroud 75 EUR per day. Excluding it was around 50 EUR. If you have any SRD left make sure you exchange them for USD or EUR in Suriname as it seems it is not possible to get rid of them anywhere else.

March 2016 trip report

JB writes:

First of all thanks Philip and Bradt Publications for putting out an English language guide book to Suriname. The info was primarily accurate and I would not have ventured here without it.

My two weeks in Suriname: This is the hidden jewel of South America! In addition to it’s vast beauty and wildlife, the people are as sweet as can be. My benchmark for as successful trip is to visit without ever speaking in anger to anyone. In this case, since I met no one who tried to take advantage, rip me off, or even act negatively towards me, this was easily accomplished.

Details: Arriving at the airport at 2AM. there were no banks open to change money. Bingo Pizza gave me bank rate to change and even apologized about it. A clue that I had come to somewhere special. I dislike starting a trip getting taken by airport taxis, but I found a shared one for 60SRD with Frank Koon, who speaks very good English. The book is right about the Waterkant being open all night, so I had beers there and watched the sunrise at The Riverside Bar (best music around) Frank recommended Un Pied A Terre. and this became my base camp when in Parbo. Yayo is good peeps and Singrid did everything to make us feel welcome and be of help. Went to the twatwa competition in the park. Strange and very local. Referees chalking a board each time a songbird sings. Taken very seriously. Went to hear live music at Don Julios Sunday night and was impressed.

Second day; up the Suriname River. 20SRD bus to Atjoni, and found a boat heading to Djumu. Stayed two nights at Pinpe Camp. Tgjoppo is highly recommended. An excellent guide in both English and Dutch. Accomodations and food were great. Further downstream, spent two nights in Pikin Slee at Pansensie, also very recommended. Didn’t meet Peter, but Hilda is the hostest with the mostest. More basic than Pingpe Camp. There was a funeral about to take place, so the last night danced half the night away with all of the residents of the village. A definite highlight. Rather than go back direct to Parbo, got dropped off in Brownsweg and hiked 3 miles into Stone Island Eco Resort on the reservoir. Decent place. First week flew by.

Back in Parbo, spent an afternoon walking near the zoo, where there is a running trail.

Mid second week, took a bus to Albina (get there early to get a lottery ticket) and found a boat to Galibi. Stayed at Wejoe. George is a great guy. Very basic place, no fan, electricity etc. I self catered.Lovely Amerindian village worth the trip, turtle season or not. There is a second Winkel now, Pedros, right back from Wejoe Lodge, open till 10PM. One last night in Paramaribo, then decided to camp my last night in Zanderij rather than stress about traffic. Cola Creek was a great way to finish up. 32SRD to pitch a tent. Store closes at 5PM so bring food or eat early.

For the independent backpacker: I got 90% of what I wanted to see in. Budgeted 42US a day. Spent 49. I’d recommend giving yourself more time to try to hook up with groups going to Brownsburg Nature Reserve or Galibi Reserve for the turtles. Probably best to book a tour of Brownsburg from Parbo, and independent packers would do better to go see the turtles at Matapica Beach. A great two week trip and a place I hope to visit again.

Higlights: Everything! The people, the food, the music, the birds, sharing date bread with a tamarind monkey on the bus to Atjoni. the Marron culture upriver, the lovely village of Galibi.

December 2014 trip report

Lisette writes:

 

Paramaribo

At Fort Zeelandia, the free guide tour is also on Sunday at 12:00
Songbird Competitions on Sunday start around 7:00.

We joined a cacao workshop (every Friday morning 9:30-12:00) 80SRD per person (min 2 persons) http://www.tanbun.org/. Where a very enthusiastic couple learned us the traditional way of making skrati and learned us tasting cacao like tasting wine. Eating chocolate will never be the same anymore.

Commewijne

Peperpot – The hourly NVB bus service from Meerzorg to Weg Na Peperpot goes every hour except that it but doesn’t run at 12:00

Plantations – We visited the plantations by bike and boat, which we really enjoyed. We biked from the city center to Leonsburg, there we took a boat to Nieuw-Amsterdam, we biked to Marienburg and continued to Alkmaar. From there we took the boat to Kronenbrg on the North bank and biked on small sanding path to Frediksdorp, where we enjoyed a good lunch, which we needed to continue to Margaretha, where we took the boat back to Leonsburg.

Kajana and the Gran Rio

We joined a organised tour (organised by Mets) to Sintiadam. In November at the end of the long-dry-period, the water is very low, therefore we had to go out of the boat several times, which made the trip from Awaradam to Sintiadam about 7 hours instead of the mentioned 4 hours.

During our tour to Sintiadam we made a guided jungle walk to the Turtle mountain. Nearly at the top of this mountain, we crossed a territory of the Cock of the Rock. We were pleased by a group of about 6 nicely singing and beautiful looking Cock of the Rocks.

Central Suriname Nature Reserve
Due to the low water at the end of the long-dry-period, we were unfortunately not allowed to swim at the Moedervallen, due to the presence of a electric eel (sidderaal).
Where to stay: We stayed at the Fungu Island Gonini River Lodge, unfortunately there were only twin  beds (i.e. 2 x one-persons beds) of only 1.80m long, including a small musquito net. Since we are a little longer, we were bitten a lot by the mosquitos.

 

Kabalebo Nature reserve
Activities: we joined a night (evening walk) of 3 hours, were we saw a lot of small night animals (tree frogs, spiders, scorpions, gecko;s) and a ocelot.